FX Lets Glenn Close Loose in 'Damages'

Your Ad Here? Media Reviews for Media People

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With a crop of new shows making their debuts on cable, and the fall season right around the corner, Ad Age TV Editor Brian Steinberg casts a critical eye at some of the new series to help marketers determine which ones may prove to be the best showcase for their ads and products.
Glenn Close stars in 'Damages.'
Glenn Close stars in 'Damages.' Credit: Larry Riley/FX


Network: FX

What You'll See: Glenn Close is frightening and fascinating in equal measure in the lead role of Patty Hewes, a high-stakes litigator who isn't above yanking a few strings here and there to serve her own ends. Patty takes in young Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne), a seeming neophyte fresh out of law school, into her firm, Hewes & Associates. But what at first glance looks to be a drama about a young kid learning the ropes in the big-pressure world of hot-spotlight law gets turned on its head two-thirds of the way into the show. Instead, we're drawn into a nasty little story that could turn Ellen (not so naïve, as it turns out) into a pawn in Patty's game to destroy corrupt businessman Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), currently the target of a huge class-action lawsuit from -- yes -- Hewes & Associates.

To say more would ruin the pilot, but Ms. Close is a wonder, sipping bourbon in a bathroom, spewing insults worthy of a guy's locker room, dismissing a subordinate with a fury that makes her seem to leap off the screen. This is a difficult set of characters; everyone seems willing to throw the next guy under a bus. These people don't win our sympathy, but they sure do grab our interest. There are a few rough edges and loose ends (for example, Zeljko Ivanek, who plays Frobisher's lawyer, Ray Fiske, trots out a southern drawl that sounds like he bought it at a local Waffle House), but "Damages" promises a pretty heady ride -- from the opening scene of a bloody, terrified Ellen Parsons running in the street to the sound of White Stripes' very appropriate song "I Think I Smell A Rat" at the end.

When You'll See It: Tuesdays at 10 p.m. for 13 weeks

What's At Stake: Landing Glenn Close in a high-quality drama gives FX a solid hour with a woman at its center (say what you want about "Dirt," which features Courtney Cox-Arquette in a lead role, but it ain't the same). FX's top advertisers are often those seeking highly elusive young men; according to TNS Media Intelligence, the network's top sponsors in 2006 and the first quarter of 2007 included Time Warner, Sony and Yum Brands, which reads movie studios and fast-food outlets. But FX could certainly try to use "Damages" to broaden its horizons, and bring in more of the upper-crust consumer looking for smart drama and a high level of acting.

Who's On Board: General Motors' Cadillac has signed up to sponsor the premiere episode, which will air commercial-free. Cadillac vehicles are also being placed in subsequent episodes, which makes sense, because who wants to see a high-powered lawyer being shuttled around in a Prius? Also worth noting: GM hasn't been spending as much on FX as Ford and DaimlerChrysler in 2006 and the first quarter of 2007. FX crafted a similar deal with GM's Pontiac for the series "Dirt." So it looks as if FX is working harder to get GM's dollars

Insert Product Here: More overt product placement in this series looks difficult. There's really no reason for the characters to grab a particular pen or box of cereal and having them do so would look forced.

Your Ad Here? "Damages" has all the hallmarks of a typical FX program -- salty language, a first-episode sex scene that may or may not be necessary and some truly frightening characters (nearly everyone in this show seems to take delight in being cruel). Marketers who do come to the FX table tend to appeal to guys who like sharp stuff that pokes like a stick in the gut. A recent episode of FX's "Rescue Me," for example, featured ads from Bud Light, Miller Lite, Pontiac, Outback Steakhouse and programs airing on other cable channels such as Versus and TLC.

Because of its star, scripts and corporate milieu, however, "Damages" might be seen as an environment for financial-services companies, or brands marketers that speak to an empowered woman (Unilever's Dove, perhaps?). Sure, it's something of a leap of faith. But some who try might be able to extend themselves to a new audience.

Media Buyer's Verdict: "It doesn't rely too heavily on gratuitous sex and violence, which I think FX has kind of gotten a reputation for with its originals," said Meredith Bivens, national broadcast supervisor at Omnicom Group's GSD&M. This drama "provides a different kind of quality to reach a different kind of audience."
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